Why did Wes Borland leave Limp Bizkit before ultimately returning to the band? And why did he do that not once, but twice?

The second time is a story we know well. Nu-metal fans worldwide intently followed along as the forward-thinking guitarist left the influential Fred Durst-led rap-rock act in 2001, right within Limp Bizkit’s most intense period of fame. He then rejoined the group in 2004.

But did you know Borland and Limp Bizkit briefly parted ways once before that, during the band’s embryonic stage, and Durst had quickly replaced him before a tour van accident made the vocalist reconsider?

How Wes Borland Joined Limp Bizkit

It starts like this: Borland joined Limp Bizkit in 1995 after Durst began building the group’s lineup in Jacksonville, Florida. It included the now-iconic Limp Bizkit rhythm section of bassist Sam Rivers and drummer John Otto. But roughly one year later, Borland was already out of the band — albeit for a veritable blip — over creative differences.

Still, many nu-metal fans will remember Wes’ 2001 departure the most due to the firestorm of publicity surrounding it — Limp Bizkit were then freshly minted hitmakers on the music scene.

But it’s interesting to realize that, even before the band’s first album, Borland seemingly already had qualms about his place in the band and had experienced friction with Durst.

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Why Wes Borland Left the First Time

Before fame had found them, Limp Bizkit were about to make their first album, what would become 1997’s Three Dollar Bill, Y’all, when the band and Wes parted ways the first time.

At some point in 1996, according to Rolling Stone, Limp Bizkit were driving to Los Angeles when their van flipped half a dozen times after the driver nodded off. Durst took it as an omen to get Borland back — he had just replaced him with two other guitarists.

“I suddenly thought, ‘This is my chance — I’m taking this as karma,” Durst recollected. “It was kinda like God flipping the van. We took it as a sign to get Wes back and start all over again.”

Wes Borland

Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

Why Did Wes Borland Leave Limp Bizkit Again in 2001?

“I think [I quit] two times, but mainly it was the [latter] one where I was just like, ‘I can’t take this anymore,’ you know, the money, everything — I can’t. I can’t be subjected to this kind of insanity anymore,” Borland recalled with nearly two decades’ hindsight on Dean Delray’s Let There Be Talk in 2020. (via MetalSucks)

In 2015, he told Stereogum of his second exit, “I didn’t like the direction that we were going in, and I had developed this huge ego, and communication between me and Fred had completely shut down in like 2001.”

A tragedy also underscored his decision to leave in 2001. “We played [Australia’s] Big Day Out Festival and had a girl die during our set,” Borland explained, “which was devastating to me, and I still haven’t really ever gotten over that. But I was like, ‘That’s enough. I’m done. I don’t like all the attention that we’re getting. … This is not what I thought being in a rock band would be like.’ So at 26, I went, ‘See ya later, I’m out.'”

He continued to Delray, “I was just like, ‘This is gross, I don’t wanna do this. I don’t wanna be in magazines. … Because at first, you’re like, if you haven’t ever been in a magazine or been famous, it seems like it’s going to be awesome! And it’s just weird. You’re like, ‘Yay, I’m on the cover!’ And then you’re like, ‘I don’t want to be… I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be tricked into the photographer telling me to make a certain pose.'”

Watch: 10 Unforgettable Limp Bizkit Moments

At the time, circa 2002, a defiant Borland told MTV News, “I think they’ll be better now that I’m gone. I think I held them back from being their best because I was so against all the things that were going on.”

Wes Borland on Being In Limp Bizkit

Thankfully, for nu-metal fans, the rest is history. Still, early on, Wes had his share of creative issues dealing with Limp Bizkit’s thematic scope and the band’s subsequent popularity. But he has always eventually found a way to reconcile it. And the relationship between him and Durst seems to have grown into a mutual respect.

“No, I don’t hate being in Limp Bizkit,” Borland responded when asked point-blank by Stereogum in 2015. “I’m very aware of my band. You know, I totally get tons of people don’t like it and think it’s a joke. And then we have a really strong fan base that are great. And it’s been something I’ve always been part of, on and off, but something that’s always been my band, and whether people think it’s dumb or not, or elements of it aren’t cool — whatever.”

He continued, “We’ve always had really fun live shows. I’ve always gotten to create stupid stage personas that make me laugh and hopefully could possibly rub off on someone in the crowd that isn’t used to seeing things like that.”

Ultimately, as the rocker admitted, Limp Bizkit is like home for him. “I really like my band,” Borland added. “Do I listen to that genre of music? No. But do I participate in my band, and do I enjoy playing with those guys? Yeah, it feels like home.”

Borland’s also been able to follow his own muse in his musical outfits outside of Bizkit, such as Big Dumb Face, with his brother, Scott Borland, and Black Light Burns. Indeed, much to fans’ delight, the guitarist always has something to deliver, whether in Limp Bizkit or otherwise.

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